Toyota’s hydrogen car conversion breathes new life into a cult classic

These electric conversions are only concepts right now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Toyota won’t ever bring these to market.

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Toyota AE86 EV concepts

Everyone’s favorite tofu-delivering Toyota is going electric, but not exactly in the way you’d think. Toyota isn’t building an all-electric version of the AE86 from scratch, it’s converting one — or at least conceptually.

The AE86 may have been immortalized through its role in the popular Initial D manga, but Toyota gave it a new lease on life at the Tokyo Auto Salon in Japan last week. The two electrification conversion methods include making it a battery-powered EV and powering it with hydrogen instead of gasoline.

It may be just a concept right now, but an electric AE86 would have gearheads drooling.


Conversions are certainly a much different approach than most automakers are taking these days. It’s not a bad idea though since it could potentially tap into a demographic of customers who want to go electric but don’t want to buy a new car.

Of course, Toyota isn’t the only company that considered converting older models into EVs. Third-party companies like Zero Labs let you convert classic gas- and diesel-powered cars into EVs and even Mini is looking to get more mileage out of its classic models by electrifying them.

Modernizing a classic — Both of Toyota’s conceptual conversions make the AE86 a zero-emissions vehicle but in different ways. For the battery-powered variant, the conversion adopts a hybrid motor from the Tundra pickup truck and a hybrid battery from the Prius. Toyota says the battery-powered EV version of the AE86 will use a manual transmission and will be as close to the original car’s weight as possible.

For the hydrogen conversion, Toyota takes two fuel cell tanks from its Mirai model and mounts them in the AE86’s rear. The conversion also calls for slight modifications to the AE86’s fuel injectors, fuel pipes, and spark plugs. According to Toyota, the company designed the hydrogen conversion so that you will still get the noise and rumble from the engine.

Both the battery-powered and hydrogen variants of the AE86 will produce zero emissions.


For extra sustainability points, Toyota also uses rejuvenated old seats, seatbelts, and seatbelt pads that are made from recycled materials for both AE86 EV concepts.

A promising concept — So far, it doesn’t sound like Toyota is making these conversions available to customers. Still, the news that Toyota is converting its older models into EVs does feel like more than just a teaser. Converting old cars into EVs could be a novel way of getting electric cars on the road after all,.

Toyota carries its sustainable thinking into the AE86’s interiors which are made of recycled materials.


It’s pretty obvious that Toyota wants to get us excited about potential conversion kits by using the example of electrified AE86s, and to be honest... mission accomplished. Even if we never see these EV conversion kits for the AE86 make it to market, it gives us a lot of hope that Toyota is thinking about electrification from a more holistic point of view.

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